Summary of the outcomes

As a condition of membership, we expect all members to have high-quality funding mechanisms. This is done by adhering to our principles of peer review. External organisations look to AMRC membership as a hallmark of quality in research funding which sets our members apart from others in the field.

When a charity applies for membership we assess its peer review processes and then audit them every five years. The most recent audit is now complete. The AMRC team were supported in the audit by a committee of peers with an independent chair. It was mandatory for all members that joined before 2019.

  • 142 members were asked to take part in the audit.
  • 133 members passed the audit and demonstrated they are meeting the five principles of peer review.
  • 9 members resigned during or at the conclusion of the process. There was a variety of reasons for this but the main one was that they had stopped funding research which meant that membership was no longer suitable for them.

Dr Mehwaesh Islam, Research Policy Manager said:

“The peer review audit is an incredibly important exercise that allows all AMRC members to demonstrate their high-quality processes when making research funding decisions. We are incredibly grateful to Professor Julia Goodfellow and the audit committee for their hard work over a very difficult year. ”

 Alice Robertson, Senior Research Officer said:

 “We knew that the additional burden of the peer review audit on top of what our members were dealing with due to the pandemic was a big ask. But, they have been diligent in their responses and keen to maintain their ‘quality mark’, which makes them stand out from the crowd”

The AMRC principles of peer review were initially developed with our members to help assure the quality and fairness of decision-making. Now that the audit is complete, we are reviewing these standards to ensure they remain the best possible in a rapidly changing research landscape.

Update (March 2021)

The Peer Review Audit Committee met in February to agree outcomes and feedback for the all audit submissions. The AMRC team look forward to sharing individual results with members in April. 

Update (November 2020)

The Peer Review Audit submission period is now closed. Thank you to all our members for your time and effort in completing the audit survey. We look forward to sharing outcomes and feedback from our peer review audit committee next year.

Update (7th September 2020)

The Peer Review Audit is now open for members to complete by Monday 2nd November 2020. All charities that joined the AMRC before 1 January 2019 must participate in the audit.  

Update (22nd April 2020)

AMRC and the Peer Review Audit Committee have made the decision to defer the Peer Review Audit by 6 months. Member charities will now be asked to complete the audit survey between September and November 2020, with a view to share the results by June/July 2021.

We have also been considering how we can adapt the audit process being conscious of the COVID-19 impact on our member charities. We have decided to audit members based on their peer review processes between March 2019 – March 2020. The audit survey also includes a question on how the pandemic situation has impacted current peer review processes (members will not be audited against this).

What is the peer review audit?  

All our members must use a rigorous peer review process – abiding by our five principles of peer review – to decide which research they will fund. 

We assess our members’ peer review processes when they apply for membership and carry out a full audit every five years. 

The audit collects information about our members’ peer review processes so that we can ensure our high standards are adhered to across the membership. It also raises the opportunity to offer advice to members where necessary and enables us to reassess our principles to consider the changing landscape.

The last audit was carried out in 2015. You can find a summary of outcomes in our 2015 report and a more in-depth overview in the 2015 briefing.

Who must take part? 

All charities that joined the AMRC before 1 January 2019 must participate in the audit.  

How does it work?

The audit is assessed by our Peer Review Audit Committee comprising of representatives from a range of AMRC member charities as well as external representation from the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.  

Each participating charity is sent a Survey Monkey link along with a PDF version so that they can prepare their answers offline. 

The Committee assesses the survey responses against our membership criteria. Each response is assigned a lead reviewer, a  secondary reviewer and is then discussed by the whole Committee. 

Charities are then contacted individually to inform them of their audit outcome and will also be provided with supporting feedback. All charities that pass the audit are sent a certificate and a Peer Review Audit 2020 pass logo to display on their website. 

The audit responses will be used to create an aggregated report on the current status and changing landscape of peer review.  

Why does AMRC carry out the audit?

Peer review is currently the best way for health and medical research charities to decide what research to fund. Done properly, it allows charities to support the best research and the best researchers. This, in turn, can help charities maximise the impact of their funding, delivering benefits to patients sooner.

The audit ensures members continue to meet our high standards for peer review and consequently support the best research and researchers. Due to this, AMRC membership is seen as a mark of quality which attracts investment from other funders and allows our members to utilise the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF) in funding research in universities and receive funding support for some of the costs associated with clinical research in the NHS through the AcoRD agreement. 

The audit enables AMRC to support members in addressing peer review challenges and taking account of changes in the landscape to ultimately improve their research funding practices.

Dates to remember

We appreciate that the current COVID-19 situation has resulted in significant changes to our members’ working arrangements and for some, changes to ongoing and future funding of research. To avoid increasing the burden on our member charities during this challenging time, we’ve deferred the Audit by 6 months. The new dates are: Monday 7th September - Monday 2nd November 2020.

If you would like to receive the Audit survey ahead of September please contact [email protected].

Who to contact

The AMRC team members responsible for the audit are: 

  • Alice Robertson – Research Officer
  • Mehwaesh Islam – Research Policy Manager
  • Nisha Tailor – Director of Policy and Public Affairs 

If you have any queries, please email us at [email protected]  

The Peer Review Audit Committee

Dame Julia Goodfellow, former Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Kent (Chair)

Jeremy Barratt, Head of Research, Wellbeing of Women 

Dan Burkwood, Head of Research Funding Operations, Cancer Research UK 

Sarah Collinge, Head of Funding Operations, Medical Research Council

David Dexter, Deputy Research Director, Parkinson’s UK 

Sophie Duport, Associate Director Research, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability 

Tracy Elliott, Head of Research Operations, Versus Arthritis 

Julie Greenfield, Head of Research, Ataxia UK 

Ralph Holme, Executive Director of Research, Action on Hearing Loss 

Alyson Fox, Director of Grants, Wellcome 

Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director, BHF 

James Pickett, (previously Director of Research & Innovation, Epilepsy Research UK) 

Marie-Claire Platt, Head of Public Affairs and Research, Ovarian Cancer Action 

Fatima Sulaiman, Head of Research, Blood Cancer UK 

Vicky Taylor, Assistant Directors - Application and Funding, NIHR NETSCC 

Heidi Urwin, Research Manager, Coeliac UK 

Simon Vincent, Director of Research, Breast Cancer Now